I’m surprised I don’t feel more sad.
Today, my eldest leaves for sleepover camp, and my other two kiddos leave for two weeks with their dad. We’ve been anticipating this separation for months now, and it’s finally here. In a way, I’m relieved. The anticipation is way harder than the reality.
That’s always the way it is. Back in 2008, when we were getting divorced, my kids knew it would be final and life would change forever in May. May first came, and my sweet 6-year-old Asher started acting out in school – so not his personality. The teacher called a few days later to discuss it, and when I pointed out the confluence of dates, we realized it was the anticipation of such a major change that fueled his behavior.
As soon as the divorce was final and his dad lived in another house and he saw that he would see his dad regularly, the behavior went back to sweet normal.
There’s been a lot of emotions swirling around my house over the past week. Trepidation about going to an overnight camp he doesn’t really want to go to, and about being away from both parents and both homes for two straight weeks. The other kids aren’t hesitant to spend two weeks with their dad, but they are reluctant to not see me for an entire two weeks.
We’ve never done this long before. So I guess it’s time.
I’ll admit, I’ve hated the anticipation. Knowing school would end with all the flurry of concerts and final week activities and exams, then taking our road trip to visit my brother, then my big work day yesterday which included a huge press conference for an important client, and then today. The day they leave. The day I say goodbye for my longest stretch of time away from my babies.
When you’re a divorced parent, you get used to being separated from your kids. You know they’re going to the other parent, and at first that’s hard, but after a while, you begin to enjoy your time to yourself.
I exercise more, sleep longer, eat when I’m hungry and only what I really want to eat, and spend quiet time contemplating, getting work done, planning, writing.
My husband and I relish our time together. We can sleep naked (although we rarely do) or have sex with the door open. No one’s going to walk in. No one’s going to hear.
We sip wine at outdoor tables and road trip a half-hour away just because we can. We know it will end, and so it’s a slice of heavenly time to rediscover why we love each other.
When the kids have left before, at the most it’s for a solid week, but we talk and text and sometimes pop over for a visit. I can hear their voices, learn about the adventures of their days away from me.
Over the next two weeks, I’ll have that chance with Eliana and Shaya, but not Asher. Maybe he’ll write me a letter and maybe he won’t. I’ll have the photos on the camp website to make sure he’s happy, but no voice connection. Not even once.
When I was a kid, I went to camp for four straight weeks, and I’m sure my parents felt much the same way. Except when you’re married to your children’s other parent, you welcome the break. They’re always there. You miss them, but you cherish your adult time because it’s so rare.
We divorced parents don’t feel that way. I never get babysitters when they’re with me because I have kid-free nights to go out. I want as much time with them as I can possibly have.
Next year, I hope none of the kids go to sleep away camp. Yes, I loved it when I was a kid, but our parents wanted us somewhere else, so we’d be occupied. At home, we got bored, and it wasn’t the era of parenting by immersion.
When my kids are here in July, we’ll go berry-picking and hiking, swimming and kayaking, we’ll go to farmers markets and museums and bake and just be together. That, to me, is summer, and I have only a scarce few left until they’re grown and gone.
I don’t believe family has to be about forcing your kids to fly away as fast as they can. I believe we choose each other and if that love is strong, we want to be together for much of our lives. Yes, even as they get older. We enjoy one another, and we cherish our time.
Letting my kids go is part of bringing them up. It’s also girded by the knowledge that it’s only temporary and true love always returns.